Location: Manhattan, New York City, New York

Overall Rating: 9/10

Returning to New York City after three and a half years was very nostalgic for me. The last time I was here, my wife and I were about halfway through a very wonderful honeymoon. For this trip I had originally planned to use our 4 Hyatt free night certificates at the Park Hyatt New York. Park Hyatt is the most luxury brand in the Hyatt family, and at a going cash rate of $608 per night, I figured it was a worthy use of our free night certificates.

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The Park Hyatt recently opened in One57 in “billionaires row”. Image courtesy of U.S. News.

My hopes were dashed when the award availability completely evaporated just days before I could book. After a couple days of vainly waiting for something to open up, I started looking for explanations. Various sources told me that standard rooms (the kind an award night books you into) at this hotel are typically in short supply.

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The pool at the Park Hyatt NYC has underwater speakers that stream classical music. Image courtesy of the Park Hyatt New York.

Already having locked in the flights, I was forced to look for other options. I defaulted to looking for SPG hotels and immediately came across the Element Times Square. Cash rates were actually reasonable and the location was good. Even better than that, it has a kitchen(!), including a stove top, sink, dishes, and full-size fridge. Considering that my wife prefers to cook for us while we are away (due to some significant dietary restrictions she has), I figured it was a win all around. I booked 4 nights.

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Element hotels had always appealed to me during previous research on the SPG website, and I was looking forward to our stay there. We arrived after an all day trip on the Amtrak Adirondack from Montreal to New York City and a brief taxi ride from Penn Station. Check in was a breeze. The receptionist was friendly, helpful, and very professional. The lobby didn’t impress all that much, but we hardly ever spend time there anyway.

The room was quite small, but it definitely impressed. The full kitchen was like a piece of heaven for my wife after 4 nights at the Hyatt Regency Montreal where we got by with our hot plate and limited supplies. An added bonus that I didn’t know about was a dishwasher. Totally impressed me. That and the extra dishes would save us some precious time over the next few days. The king bed was also wondrously comfortable.

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I had paid a few extra bucks per night for a high floor room. I thought about banking on my SPG gold status for an upgrade from a standard room, but I didn’t want to risk it. The room we were given was only a few floors from the top, and the view was spectacular. We could see the Empire State Building off on one side, Jersey City on the other, and Downtown Manhattan off in the distance! Exactly as I had hoped.

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The view of the urban jungle from our room. The window faced south, providing great views of the Empire State Building in the foreground, with downtown and Jersey City off in the distance.

The Element also offers free breakfast, which is a good benefit, saving both time and money. Since most of the offerings were starchy carbohydrates, my wife still had to cook for herself, but I was able to grab breakfast each morning and bring it back up to our room. Overall it was a pretty standard hot breakfast, comparable to most hotels I have stayed at. Nothing special. Also very busy between 7:30 and 8:30.

The location was also great. I hadn’t really wanted to stay in Midtown again, or especially near Times Square, but that is how things worked out. This did allow us great access to several subway lines. We could catch the A, C, and E trains at the Port Authority just a block away, and we could easily walk to the Times Square / 42nd Street station for several others. Even though the Port Authority was only a block away, we felt very safe at night walking back to the hotel from the subway.

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The only mild frustration of the stay was the elevators. The hotel has only 3, and they service ~40 floors. I pitied the people on the lower floors. We were on the 35th floor, and the typical wait was about a minute for an elevator. The most was maybe 3 minutes. Heading down, however, was often an adventure. The trip could take 10 minutes or more. Floor after floor more people would get on until the elevator was packed. I pitied the people on any floor below about 25 since they might not be able to fit on the elevator and would have to wait for another. Waiting in line for an elevator in the lobby was another problem, but typically we were headed up in less than 5 minutes.

My wife and I are not exactly social butterflies, nor do we drink, so we did not take advantage of the evening social that offered a selection of hors d’oeuvres and alcohol. Watching Netflix and taking in the view from the privacy of our own room is much preferred.

On the whole my wife and I loved the Element Times Square. The kitchen was amazing, and the view and location very much worth the cash rate (and not worth 12,000 SPG points per night, at least not in January). It will make me more likely to consider other Element hotels in the future.